As a day trip from Lahaina, Honolua Bay is tops. This quiet, rocky, protected bay is tucked away behind tall cliff bands—effectively keeping the wind to a minimum, the waves relatively calm, and the scenery simply spectacular.
If you’re after sandy beaches and leisurely lounging, nearby Mokule’ia Bay may be your better bet. Honolua is relatively rocky, especially on the right side of the beach, and thanks to its popularity, most of the dark grey, sandy real estate on the left side of the beach is occupied early and throughout the day. If you’re here to snorkel, though, this should be of no bother: The majority of the coral is found offshore beyond the rocky beach where most of the fish congregate.
Like its southern neighbor, Mokule’ia Bay, Honolua Bay is a part of the Honolua-Mokule’ia Bay Marine Life Conservation District, and fishing or disturbing the wildlife in any way is strictly prohibited. While Honolua is known for its snorkeling, there is a chance that the water near the shore will be murky thanks to a stream that comes in near the west side of the bay. Typically, even on a low-visibility day, the water will clear up once you get a little farther from shore. If you take the time, you’ll be rewarded with abundant schools of butterfly fish of many varieties, Potter’s angelfish, yellow-tail wrasse, and the rainbow-colored ornate wrasse among others. The chances of catching a glimpse of sea turtles are high here as well.
Additionally, the Honolua Bay surf break is renowned as one of the best on the island when it’s in. It’s far enough away from shore that it won’t affect swimmers or snorkelers, but when there’s a perfect north break here, it’s an incredible sight to see. Gaze just a bit farther off across the Pailolo Channel straight ahead, and you’ll see the eastern shores of the Island of Molokai.
Arrive early to ensure yourself parking—this is one of the most popular beaches in the area, and parking can be tough to find.